Moments That Last


Today is a special day. I am away, but I thought it would be interesting if I talked a little about me. Going back in time, I can step in a certain weekend on my father’s hometown. I was 12 or 13 by then, I lived in boarding-school and sporadic weekends were the only opportunity I had to be with my mother and sister. I still remember our house with windows overlooking the main square and the playroom we had on the second floor – a room, a corridor and a veranda just for the two of us.


After three years of boarding-school, my interests were a little different. I always liked to read, and at school my life depended on that. So, during that particular weekend, instead of playing with dolls or miniature ovens, I raided my father’s bookcase. He was fond of suspense books and Russian literature. Avoiding ones, too skinny for long days, and others, too fat to carry around, I picked Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and Darwin’s The Origin of Species.


At school we could read before sleep (at least until the lights were switched off), we could read between periods of study or if we finished certain tasks before the other colleagues. Between teatime and dinner we had the afternoon recreation and study hours. I remember how difficult it was for me not drifting into slumber under the dim light of the afternoons. To avoid that I worked in a rush, thinking of the moment I would stand and announce:


“Homework’s finished. May I read now?”


The answer of the vigilant nun was always “yes” and the looks on the faces of my colleagues always urgent.


All this to tell that, one day, my Steinbeck’s book was seized by the nun, as unsuitable read, and another book about the life of a saint was offered to me instead. I knew that book from previous visits to the school library; nonetheless, I pretended to be reading it while in reality I had The Origin of Species behind. Maneuvering was common during boarding-school years. That’s how we could read comics and “forbidden” authors, mainly French and Russian.


The third day I was caught in the act. Again. This time I knew it meant trouble. Second timer… I sat on a bench in front of the nun-superior gabinet, unsure of the tidiness of my white and brown day-to-day uniform. Unsure of so many things. Grasping my red belt in expectation, I was decided to stand on my own behalf. Today, I’m certain the wait was already part of the punishment.


For me, the book I had been reading was just a book with the ideas of some man. His ideas were coherent and worth to know. I was sure of my reasons and determined to be strong. But inside that gabinet was the new superior, a young nun with a beautiful face and a seductive voice. Not the usual old superiors we used to joke about.


Unexpectedly, with her kindness, gentle manner and studied words, she drowned my defense fire. She was able to make me: 1) Admit that the ideas of that man were wrong. 2) Admit that I was wrong. 3) Feel guilty. 4) Cry… All that in half an hour!


But the mind and the will are not toys. You break them and there you have. You are sure the toy is yours. But it’s not. Flaubert’s Madame Bovary and Zola’s Germinal were my next reads. Two on the “black list”, for sure. I was never caught again.


I felt revolted for a long time. I felt bad about myself. I had my defense prepared, but she was clever and touched me through my teen need for attention, care and closeness. That same night I took a decision.


I was raised as a catholic, but my family wasn’t fanatic about religion. They would understand. From that day on, I would never belong to any religion. For me it was clear: “If religion doesn’t respect others’ ideas, I don’t care about religion any more.”


Second Part

During my entire life I never regretted this move. Recent developments give me reason. In terms of intolerance, religions are all the same. Religions have a common design in terms of disrespecting freedom.


I still wonder how I could survive my last years in boarding school, a place where if you didn’t followed the Sunday ritual it was surely because you were in sin. I never confessed or took communion again. I am proud of that.


My sons and daughter were raised out of any believe, pressure or religious talk. I am proud of that too. They are what they want to be. They think the way they want to think.


Up to this day, I hate any religion talk. I distaste it. Religion is an individual option and should live inside of you. I simply hate any loud religious manifestation. Religiousness makes me feel uneasy and kind of sick. My reaction to religion traps is bold, defiant, insolent, unexpected…


I love the freedom of thought above all the existing things. I follow personal theories and admire other’s ideas when they deserve that admiration. Happily, the number of talented people in the world is enough to keep me busy forever.


Sometime ago I developed the notion that we never meet the right person for us. Sometimes we find someone that has a hint of what we are looking for. Never the whole. I believe that we can’t ever, but ever, meet that person. Though that person exists and our job, as living beings, is keep looking for that person – even knowing that he or she is never going to show up. With a little of chance, you can meet someone close enough. This year I discovered other people defending this same theory.


The way I think is not a religion or a religious thought. It’s just a way of staying in life. A permanent search.


For religious minds, happiness is after life. For me happiness is possible, even without the Right One. At different degrees, even so possible. At least I know a few fulfilled couples. Lucky ones! When the matter is religion, such standards only exist in heaven.